Mercyhurst dance performances celebrate ‘Freedom Season’

A Welsh

The Mercyhurst University Institute for Arts & Culture announces the Dance Department’s “Freedom Season.” Celebrating the university’s 2012-13 academic theme of freedom, dance performances this year will focus on freedom of expression, freedom to rejoice in the peace of the holiday season, creative freedom and freedom of choice.

Kicking off the season will be “Beyond Words II,” a presentation of classical and contemporary movement dedicated to the uncensored freedom of expression. Mercyhurst Ballet Theatre (MBT) and SoMar Dance Works will share the stage for performances Saturday, Oct. 27, at 2 and 7 p.m. and Sunday, Oct. 28, at 2 p.m. at the Mary D’Angelo Performing Arts Center.

Guest choreographer Lisa de Ribere was in residence in September to create the world premiere Eye of the Wind for MBT. “Lisa de Ribere’s credentials include performing with both New York City Ballet and American Ballet Theatre,” says MBT Co-Director Tauna Hunter. “The dance department is more than honored to have her create a work for us.”

De Ribere is a prolific choreographer, having created nearly 80 works for companies in the U.S. and Europe, including Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, San Francisco Ballet and Baryshnikov and Friends, and having earned four choreography fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts.

"Eye of the Wind" is a nautically inspired work that was influenced by the historic sea battle on Lake Erie during the War of 1812, the Year of Freedom at Mercyhurst and the Third Movement of Sir Ralph Vaughn Williams' Symphony # 2. “Ultimately, what one sees in this work is purely in the eye of the beholder and can be considered to be a sort of visual tone poem,” says de Ribere.

Guest artist Justin Koertgen of Dayton Ballet will be showcased in the dramatic “Lord Look Down,” choreographed by senior dance major Tess Sinke. Rounding out the MBT portion of the program will be world premieres by Michael Gleason and Tauna Hunter; “…I Used to Know,” choreographed by Jo Alspaugh and Noelle Lelakus; and “Avé Maria,” choreographed by Hunter.

SoMar Dance Works, directed by Mark and Solveig Santillano, will present a series of dances that are indeed “beyond words” once again. “Coral Eden” is a duet the Santillanos created 12 years ago set to music created for the piece by Ray Castrey. The composer will be on hand to play for this concert. “It’s Alive,” set to the music of Edgar Winter’s “Frankenstein,” will get its Erie premiere. The nine SoMar dancers will be featured as a mad scientist, her bumbling assistant and a whole bunch of un-dead zombies in a bit of Halloween fun.

Three world premieres will include “O’er Land of the Free,” exploring life in a world under constant surveillance; “Somewhere Between Was and Will Be,” a multi-media solo for Solveig Santillano that’s a meditation on aging in a youth-oriented society; and a saxophone/tap dance duet to Irving Berlin’s “Blue Skies” by Mark Santillano and Scott Meier of Mercyhurst’s D’Angelo Department of Music. SoMar Dance Works will also present some old favorites and some special “bonus features.”

Tickets for dance performances are $15.50 for adults and $12.50 for seniors and students. Mercyhurst students will be admitted for $3.50. A preview performance will also be offered on Fridays at 4:30 p.m. with all tickets selling for $5 (balcony seating only). Tickets can be purchased by calling 824-3000.

Mark your calendars now for the remaining performances of the Freedom Season:

• “‘Tis the Season” Dec. 7-9. The Mercyhurst Dancers and Liturgical Dance Ensemble will focus on family programming centered on the freedom to rejoice in the peace of the holiday season. The one-hour narrated presentation will feature “Babes in Toyland” and “Santa’s Toy Shop,” plus a spiritually based work presented by the Liturgical Dance Ensemble. Pre-performance holiday music will welcome you and dancers will greet audience members of all ages in the lobby after each performance.

• “Raw Edges” Feb. 1-3, 2013. The Mercyhurst Dancers and returning dance alumni share their journey with the community. The event empowers young choreographers with the creative freedom to collaborate in mixed media of groundbreaking movement, the spoken word and multi-media. Alumni join this concert as guest artists to perform and inspire.

• “La Fille Mal Gardée” May 3-5, 2013. The Mercyhurst Dancers and the Mercyhurst Symphony Orchestra will join forces for the first time to present the highlight of the Freedom Season, the 1879 ballet “The Badly Guarded Daughter” with choreography by esteemed choreographer Bruce Marks. The story ballet centers on a lovesick young lady challenged by an arranged marriage to the very rich town simpleton. Families can laugh together at this two-act comedic ballet dedicated to freedom of choice. Funding by ArtsErie supports this quality production never before seen in Erie.

PHOTO: Anastasia Welsh
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